When it comes to the study of psychology there is one question that gets debated more often than most.
Now before getting into possible answers to that question I think it’s important to understand that psychology is a very broad concept that encompasses both research and practical aspects and a wide range of different specialties and fields of psychology.
So trying to categorically say psychology is a science or is not a science, is never going to be possible.
You should probably look on it more as a scale – there are various aspects of psychology which could be considered quite scientific, while there are other areas which are about as far from science as you can get..
Is Psychology A Science – The Argument For
The one area in which psychology could be said to have scientific aspects is in the research.
When a psychologist does a research study, they will generally apply a very scientific methodology to their study.
So they’ll start with a theory or hypothesis, and then they’ll devise an experiment or series of experiments to test out those theories and hypotheses.
These experiments must be repeatable and objective and the end result of the experiment should be some form of data that can be used to determine whether the hypothesis should be accepted, rejected or if more study needs to be done.
So while a scientist may conduct experiments that deal with the properties of chemicals or other physical elements, a psychologist will devise experiments designed to understand more about human behavior.
And as long as these experiments adhere to the accepted principles that make up the scientific method, then this field of psychology could be referred to as a science.
It’s the science of human behavior.
And there are differing degrees to which psychology research is scientifically based.
So for example, there may be psychology studies which involve brain scans and sophisticated equipment to map human behavior against specific stimuli.
This could be considered a more scientific study then something which simply maps human behaviors under the umbrella of what would be considered a real world social experiment..
Is Psychology A Science – The Argument Against
Now while it’s true that a well designed psychology study follows established scientific principles, there are some that will argue that this is not enough to make it a science.
One of the arguments put forward is that in science, the practical side of the science is based on the research.
So for example, scientific research is done into various drugs – some drugs are discarded as not being of benefit, while others become available to be prescribed by doctors for the treatment of specific conditions.
The practical follows the research.
In the case of psychology this is rarely the case. To date there has been relatively little follow through from research to practical application when compared with the other sciences.
While this may change in the future, the practice of psychology could not really be considered to be scientific in the same way as medicine is.
Another argument against against psychology as a science is that science is the study of physical substances and facts, not the study of beliefs.
Human behavior is based largely on beliefs, and while over large population groups there can be common behaviors exhibited by that group, these behaviors are based on a shared set of beliefs and not some physical reaction taking place within their bodies.
Again this should be seen on a scale – while much human behavior is belief-based, there are definitely certain behaviors that have been identified in studies as coming from a more primal level..
This article barely scratches the surface of the various arguments that be made both for and against psychology as a science.
It all depends on how you define science and which particular area of psychology you’re talking about.
In the end there are going to be psychologists who say yes and scientists who say no and all manner of opinions in between.